UNITED STATES—In a time like this, you get by on your vices. One of mine is ganja. I initially thought this was going to be a three-doobie pandemic, when we began in April. Now it is February and I have lost count.

I was going to go Saturday night to pick up a gram or three from the smoke shop up the street. The third sequel of the first quarantine has a kind of power to make small distances seem very great, especially at night, and the deserted streets of the city are fraught by street dangers, albeit mostly imaginary ones. And I said to myself, why not leave the weed errand for tomorrow.

Now looking at the way things turned out, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. But you can’t undo what has been done, can you? I used to laugh at insomnia, but now I realize the hell of it. You want to wake from something rotten that happened and you can’t erase it.

Sunday I wallowed through the soupy 95 degree afternoon toward the smoke shop. I decided to take the scenic route, but true to the tattoo I said I’d never get, but finally had stitched to my flesh about the sixth month of the pandemic, a golden wheel with the legend KEEP MOVING, instead of waiting for a red crosswalk signal, I would go one block to the left or right, and so keep moving and hopefully catch a green light.

Like it really mattered! Stoplights are now a formality, so is the date. But I still make a point to know it, like ticking off the days of a 30-year sentence. The day all this happened was Tuesday, February 14.

I came up to my little hill, the place where I can always take an existential load off. No people up here. I could see wondering how spaced out the cars were on the freeway; I counted up to 30 seconds between cars. Eternity. People are staying home, if they still have one, and no end is in sight.

Hey, there could be cooties on the bench, but what the hay. It started too long ago I can’t hardly remember—this sovereign fear of the tiny and unknown. It started when I was three years old with black widows and all the kids were going loco in the woodshed. Then more things added to the microscopic enemies list:


-bathroom seats in gas stations

-other people’s straws



However, should a ham sandwich fall to the floor, all invisible plagues were subservient to the “Five second rule.” There was comfort knowing that.

I strolled down the hill in the loyal heat. In the final block of my journey to the smoke shop, I was left agape by a window full of books on the window sill, page side exposed. Since I was on the shady side of the street, I just stopped and stared. Taped on the window were messages of love and peace. Hearts and flowers. I drank it all in, prey to a sudden reverie. I wanted to shout in the half open window and say, “yoohoo, thanks” to the kind, musically-inclined boomer soul for the view of hope.

But everyone’s a little shaky these days.

I’m not shouting at anybody.

I let the good intentions ebb and started down the last 20 yards of sidewalk, before the smoke shop. Here the rigs park, between hauling loads of debris or sand coming in and out. I began my final approach to the smoke shop. The security guard was just smiling toothily, shifting the weight on his heels. He was wearing some cool sunglasses.

Then two figures flew from the smoke shop door, one chasing the other and grabbing his shoulder, past the gutter and into the roadway. Then, the the fire-plum and chrome cab of the big fancy rig blotted out what was happening in the street. In a fraction of a second I had processed that a black man was running away, chased by a white man.

To be continued…